Friday 7th October 1932 - Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool
Dearest darling Herbert,
What excitement we have had!
Mother and I boarded our train on Thursday. The conductor was a charming man. I swear he held my hand for just a moment too long. The weather was terrible, of course, but we were heading for the sun, and neither of us cared one jot. Then the thunderstorm started, which terrified Mother. She shrieked like she had seen a dozen mice with every rumble and flash. It was good fortune we shared our carriage solely with a group of nuns from a silent order. Their luggage labels showed they were heading on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. One wonders how they afforded first-class travel. Mother was distraught, but the ladies were charming and prayed for us throughout the storm. At least, I think they included us in their prayers as they constantly waved their crosses and prayer books at us. I'm sure they did not mind my cigarette smoke. They were only menthol, after all.
It was a disappointment you could not be with us. What a comfort that would have been. Such a shame you could not leave your poor Mr. Ross. If only the dear old thing had passed away when expected. Oh, how terribly callous that must sound, but you know, Herbert, our dear neighbour, is suffering so much. I wish you could ease his pain. Well, I shall say no more on that subject.
We arrived safely in Liverpool just in time for dinner at our hotel. It is a divine place. If the weather had improved, I should have joined a group of handsome young men for tennis. We met them in the hotel lounge last evening. One of them is the cousin of Ronnie Montagu. Do you remember him? The red-headed chap who flirted with me outrageously last August. I'm sure you were jealous, as you did not say a word to me all evening. Instead, I tested the water in the swimming pool this morning. I have a daring new costume! Do you like the photograph, and are you shocked by your brazen fiancee? Perhaps you will sleep with it under your pillow and dream of me.
Earlier this afternoon, Mother and I took a walk, but several men were begging in the street! Can you believe it, darling? Why were they not at work? One of them said to Mother that he had not eaten for two days. He had the most dishevelled and unpleasant appearance, so we returned to the hotel for afternoon tea.
Tomorrow, we will board the ship at 3.00 pm. I do hope you will write soon.
Your adoring Dorothea.
Saturday 8th October 1932 - London
Dear Miss Dorothea,
Thank you for taking the time from your busy day to write to me. I am glad you and her ladyship arrived at your hotel without incident.
Mr. Ross is much improved today. Dyspepsia is a most painful condition, but I do not believe it to be fatal. While I appreciate he seems, to you, to be of advanced years, I have no reason to expect his imminent death. I would be most distressed if you thought I cared about the legacy I shall receive on his passing. I assure you; Miss Dorothea, I do not need the money. It is sad Mr. Ross does not have a family to benefit from his generosity.
The photograph you enclosed was indeed daring. I will keep it locked away as I would not wish the housekeeper to see it. She is subject to heart palpitations.
I am very grateful for your friendship Miss Dorothea, but may I politely request that you not refer to me as your fiance? Her ladyship would not approve. I am sure this is your wonderful sense of humour at play, and in time, you will find a suitable young man of your own social class.
I have heard people are starving in the streets of many of our northern cities because of the depression. Exports of coal have fallen, and the mines have closed. They report that one million men are out of work. As a result, the ports have fewer merchant ships, and the Liverpool dockyards are laying men off. I am sorry that you and her ladyship had an unpleasant encounter.
Today I am driving Mr. Ross to the House of Commons to meet Mr. Ramsey MacDonald. The Prime Minister wishes to discuss further limitations to importing foreign goods. I shall take a walk around the National Gallery while I wait.
I wish you a pleasant voyage.
Your humble servant, Herbert Morris.
Monday 10th October 1932 - RMS Lancastria, Cartagena
I had to share the news, such excitement as I have ever known. We have had a rescue at sea! Dozens of dear little Belgian sailors surround us. Their ship sank this morning. I do loathe the Bay of Biscay. It makes one feel a little drunk, reeling from one side of the boat to the other, and poor Mother could only keep down a little turtle soup, a small portion of pheasant pie, and only one dessert! I believe the crew is sharing their rations with the Belgians.
There has been an appeal to the passengers for donations to help the sailors, who will be ashore tomorrow morning. Mother has a fur coat that has a little blight. I am sure she will not miss it. The change to our itinerary has upset Mother very much. She is looking forward to reaching Lisbon. She has instructed our steward to fetch the captain at once.
Mother tells me that Mr. Ross is worth some £100000! I am delighted for your good fortune, my darling. We shall have great fun when we are married. When do you think that might be? I hear that Mr. Ross has a diseased heart. I am sure you take great care of his medication. It would be sad if he were to overdose accidentally.
Write soon, my beloved. I long to hear your news.
Your adoring, Dorothea.
Friday 14th October 1932 - London
Dear Miss Dorothea
Your letter arrived 'par avion,' this morning. It was most exciting to receive the post with a Spanish stamp. The housekeeper, Miss Harris, was delighted to have the postage stamps to give to her nephew.
We heard the news of the SS Scheldestad on the radio. How tragic that some 40 sailors lost their lives. I feel a sense of great sadness for the mothers who have lost their sons and wives that will never see the return of their husbands. We in the servants' hall have donated a small sum of money that the vicar will send to the bereaved. Reverend Jones knew several Belgian refugees from his parish in Folkestone during the Great War.
It surprised me to hear that some 250000 Belgians arrived in England when the Germans invaded. How sad they lost their home to invaders, only to return home, without choice, when the war ended. The Reverend said the government wanted the jobs back for returning servicemen. Miss Harris had a niece who was a conductress on a tram. She also lost her employment, as a soldier required the job. Miss Harris believes they will one day pay men and women the same wages for the same work, but I fear that is most unlikely.
Mr. Ross met with the Prime Minister. Mr. MacDonald is a good man but in poor health, and Mr. Ross says he can not remain in power for much longer. The Tories dominate the National Government, and his Labour policies have little support. The newspapers once again reported that his son was a conscientious objector during the war. It did not reflect well upon him.
My employer is enjoying good health. The rumours of his heart's weakness are ill-informed, and he is not currently taking any medication. I would most respectfully beg you not to consider me as an object of your affection, Miss Dorothea. I believe some may have exaggerated my expectations, and I would not wish to disappoint you.
Your humble servant,
Tuesday 18th October 1932 - Villa Santa Maria, Lisbon
I am so glad to hear that Mr. Ross is well. I hope he is not overdoing things with all his political work. Mother says he should not concern himself with the north when things are so bad in London. I swear we waited over half an hour for a porter to collect our bags at the station. Why are men unemployed when clearly there is a need for essential workers? But enough of political matters, I am sure I will exhaust myself with such thinking. Dolly Matthews says I worry far too much.
Mother and I were reminiscing this morning about your dear father, how he carried me on his shoulders when I was a child. It was such fun galloping around the yard pretending he was a pony. Oh, how we laughed when he lost a shoe. Happy days. He was a great valet and a staunch friend to dear Mr. Ross. It is honourable that Ross should regard you as a son and heir. I describe you this way to my dearest friends.
We are staying here until April. If Mr. Ross should succumb to the winter influenza, please join us here, my darling. I would love to write more, but Mother and I are going to a party with some film director and his chums. They smoke the most delightful Turkish cigarettes.
Until we meet again,
Your adoring Dorothea
24th October 1932 - London
Dear Miss Dorothea
Thank you for your most entertaining letter.
This morning I drove Mr. Ross to Trafalgar Square. There was a most deplorable scene when the National Hunger Marchers met with Mr. Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Mr. Ross instructed me to use the motor car to take several injured men and women to the hospital. Many of the marchers had left Glasgow in September. Their boots were little more than scraps of leather, bound with rags. Blood ran from their torn feet. They intend to address parliament about the abolition of the means test. There is much concern that government agents infiltrated the march, wishing to discredit their peaceful aims.
Here we have exciting news. On Saturday evening, Mr. Ross introduced us to Miss Ethel MacDonald. They are engaged to be married. Farley Hall may indeed yet have an heir. A band played in the garden, and Miss Harris and I danced a celebratory jig around the kitchen table. Despite the 30 years between them, I believe this is a sincere love match.
I am sure Miss MacDonald will take excellent care of Mr. Ross' health.
It will be a pleasure to see you next April, Miss Dorothea.
Your humble servant Herbert Morris.
30th October 1932 - Villa Rossini Lisbon
Dear Mr. Morris
Alas, my one true love, you have sadly deceived me. I wish you and Miss Harris a happy future together, and of course, I release you from any obligation toward me. I was not expecting many years of happiness; you being so much older than me, Herbert, but I had hoped to be a bride before considering a lonely widowhood.
Mr. Ross, it appears, has had his head turned by a pretty ankle. Ah well, there is no fool like an old fool. And no doubt he will keep you, and the future Mrs. Morris, in service together.
Ronnie Montagu arrived in Lisbon yesterday. Mother and I are now his house guests. Dear Ronnie's father is seriously ill, and Ronnie may have to return to London soon to be at his bedside, as a most thoughtful son should. It is my duty to be there to console him.
I must ask you, Herbert, not to write to me again. I should find it too upsetting.
Your heartbroken friend, Dorothea.